Ken Starks of Austin, TX, better known as Helios17 around these parts, has begun a quest to further the development of user space applications for the Linux operating system. To this end, he also has opened a website  dedicated to the cause. With his goal being to persuade developers to produce software for Linux that will allow users to switch operating systems without losing crucial functionality, he has raised controversial issues and opened important dialogues.
Helios has set himself quite the risky goal. One has to question if this can be done without alienating said developers. Many work on their programs out of the pure joy of creating and giving back. Most are not compensated financially. Nagging them to add more and more functionality may tend to force them to throw up their hands. Lobby4linux is trying to suggest features without crossing that line. But it's a mighty fine line. Can and how is he going to accomplish this?
Taken from the website, we can find the outline. Quoting, "This is going to start out very simple. Members of this website and forum(s) suggest Linux programs that they believe should either be written or improved upon. Software suggestions will be catagorized and voted upon and after a pre-determined time, the author or developer of that application will be contacted by this site and the suggestions the made will be presented to him or her. The author will be made aware of this website's presence and also notified that we post all replies or lack thereof back to Lobby4Linux.com."
Helios explains, "Linux is stalled because we lack just a few applications to compete with Microsoft Windows. For the lack of these few programs, some people remained chained to Microsoft. A shining example is Kmymoney. I use it and I think it is better than Quicken. But...it's not comparable to QuickBooks and QuickBooks is the target we have to hit. If we can get a program to rival QuickBooks and even turbotax, then I think we can get more people to switch. We have to build a bridge between Linux developers and Linux Users."
When questioned about the reaction from developers so far, Helios states, "I have been contacted by a few developers who WANT people to provide input into their projects. Then again, I have contacted developers with information on our mission and I have been told to go piss up a rope. But here is the thing that used to chap my ass. Ok, I'm talking to this developer and that, trying to find someone who is willing to work on this Linux alternative to Quickbooks. I'm not doin' real well here. Either they don't have the time, talent, or just do not want to commit themselves to a project of this magnitude."
He continues, "So I get an email from a woman in Calcutta. She is the head of the computer sciences department for her university. She WANTS to take on this project as a GPL project and have her graduate students work on it...and I'm talking cheap. With all the complaining about outsourcing of our jobs, I am beginning to understand the attraction."
Another example of the kinds of software Helios would like to see developed for Linux is "a cool desktop search tool. L4L started out with just one mission but it has mushroomed into kind of a multi-purpose site. My initial plan for L4L was to bring Linux developers and Linux Users together to see if we can't improve just a couple programs...programs that are avialable in Windows and not in Linux. I mentioned accounting software and that's our main goal but others are important too. Linux needs a cool desktop search tool. Something like Google Desktop Search or Yahoo Desktop Search. The Yahoo tool is awesome and I would like to see something like that in Linux. There is a developer out of Italy named Roberto that is working on Kat .. I have been emailing Roberto from time to time and he is very interested in L4L."
As a secondary goal Helios would like to spread the gospel of Linux. He states, "There is no reason at all that Linux cannot or should not have at least 20 percent of the total market share. No reason at all. Linux has been declared "ready for the desktop, as far as I am concerned, it IS ready for most users. I believe that between AOL and Microsoft, they are responsible for the dumbing-down of an entire generation of computer users. You got people who don't even know how to set up their email by themselves. They have no idea what the smtp or pop data is that they have to fill into the request field. I got a call from a lady the other day, asking me how to make the screensaver go away. "like, move the mouse?" Sheesh. It took me 10 minutes just to walk her through the steps to turn it off. a 30 second task. She didn't know how to go to start/control panel.
Now that's bad enough, but I gotta share this with you. I was presenting Linux to a vice-principal of a high school last month. He was all about saving money and using Open Office, but then he told me that he couldn't because Microsoft would sue him for taking Windows off the computer. Yeah, he actually believes that it is illegal to remove Windows XP because it came with the computer. ...Makes my ass hurt. It's that kind of ignorance and laziness we are dealing with. I don't believe Linux should be dumbed down...I believe the computer user should take some responsibility for knowing something about their computers."
Ken Starks, resident of Texas, husband and father of three, and owner of a pressure washing company, found Linux about a year ago when "MobileMaster of Austin fell victim to a particularly nasty variant of the bagle worm...and it was destructive. We were running Windows XP with a small server and it spread throughout the network like mercury. We got completely hosed by it and after 3 days downtime, I decided enough was enough. I spent those three days researching Linux...taking a crash course on its suitablity and usefulness in our business.
We played briefly with Knoppix but then discovered Kanotix was much better. We used it for about 4 months then I got the itch and started testing other distro's at home. I fell in love with the debian distros and messed with alot of them. I tried Suse, but didn't get along with YaST. Fedora core just didn't feel right and Mepis...well, I have some fairly strong philosophical differences with the developer, so I don't care how good it is, I wouldn't use it if I had to."
After the urging of a close friend, Helios decides to try PCLO . "...the rest is history. With all the other debian distro's, I had to install the mplayer files and plugins by hand, same for video drivers. As good as they are, I just found it refreshing to install a system and have it just work. PCLinuxOS has done just that. Now I DON'T think a user should have to manually install mplayer and the plugins, but I do think they should know how to navigate the (expletive) kicker. PCLinuxOS has done a good thing. Tex has made the system usable to anyone on first boot and they can get to work immediately. THEN they can get into the more complex stuff like changing the screensaver. Besides, the graphic artist for PCLinuxOS, Jose Rangels is a genius. His work is not only beautiful, he's a nice guy. The other thing I like about PClinuxOS and I think that this is the most important factor; is the community. You got people who have been using Linux for years and have a drive for PCLinuxOS. I think that PCLinuxOS is going to be named distro of the year in 2005 and I am going to do what I can to help make that happen. Texstar works too (expletive) hard not to be recognized for his work. That's why every page on Lobby4Linux has a link to PCLinuxOS ."
"L4L  will remain a work in progress until we get everything we want on there. Some of the links are even empty right now but we'll get them filled in soon enough."
Visit Lobby4Linux  and get into the discussion. All opinions and suggestions are welcome, positive or negative.